Human Free Will Versus God’s Decree? 2 Chronicles 10:15 Endorses The Latter
Posted by Job on February 15, 2012
Background: despite being given everything imaginable by God and then some – including God personally visiting him twice – Solomon ceased living by faith and trusting in God, and instead began to put his faith in things of this world, including idolatry. Solomon chose to marry pagan women, for instance, because it was the common political practice of the day for kings to form treaties. If a king wished to form an economic, military or political alliance with another kingdom or tribe, you would marry a female relative – usually the daughter – of the king that he was conducting the business of state with. So, instead of trusting God to provide peace and prosperity for his people, Solomon chose political maneuvering. Solomon added to that faithless behavior by worshiping the devils of his pagan wives. Why? It is simple enough to presume that his desire to please his wives was no different from that of Adam when he chose to eat the forbidden fruit given to him by his wife Eve. One can extend that with the political mess that Solomon had gotten himself into by marrying these women in the first place: as these women were dedicated to the false deities of their own land, Solomon had to worship their gods to keep them happy. Otherwise, word would have certainly gotten back to the fathers – rival kings! – of these women that Solomon was mistreating their daughters, and there goes the peace treaty! The resulting situation: it would have been better for Solomon to have never used marriage for the purpose of political alliances at all than to do so and anger the daughter of a rival king or warlord! Such a king would ask “Why marry my daughter at all if you are going to mistreat her by refusing to worship her god?” Realize that no good answer exists to that question! One must consider the polytheistic pagan mindset of the era – in contrast to Yahwist monotheism – where adding another god to the list that you were worshiping was easier than buying a new pair of shoelaces. So, if Solomon worshiped the god of some of his wives (i.e. his Hebrew wives) and not others, from the flawed perspective of the pagan women that he married, there was no reason for him to do so other than not only preferring some of his wives over the rest, but going out of his way to do so in order to humiliate and spitefully mistreat her! And the children of the ill-favored wife of the king have an uncertain future … just an impossible situation that Solomon got himself into. Which, of course, is the case with all sinful disobedience to God’s command!
In any case, God punished Solomon for his sin by decreeing that rule of 9 of the 11 tribes and their territory (remember, the Levites were a special case) would be stripped from his lineage, and the house of David would be left with rule over only a small portion of the kingdom, which turned out to be the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. (Evidence that this was God’s doing: because of the enmity between the house of David of Judah and the house of Saul of Benjamin over the throne – a bloody conflict that continued until at least after the crowning of Solomon – the tribe of Benjamin SHOULD HAVE joined the rebellion, and used the opportunity to have one of its members become king of the 9 tribes that broke away from the house of David based on a claim to the throne on Saul being the rightful, legitimate king, and the rebellion against Rehoboam being proof that David was a fraud and usurper. Instead, the tribe of Benjamin alone joined the tribe of Judah to form the southern kingdom despite the house of Saul having contested the house of David over the throne a mere few decades prior, and when casting their lot with the other 9 tribes and then going to war with the 1 remaining tribe seeming to be a rather good way of getting the monarchy – and rule over all 12 tribes – back to the tribe of Benjamin! How wonderful and amazing is God able to reveal His power and His mighty workings!)
The situation: early in the reign of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, a challenge to the reign of the young king – likely provoked by Jeroboam – arises. The twelve tribes have a choice: continue with the leadership anointed by God, or rebel. Nine tribes – Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Gad – make a free will decision to reject membership in the earthly, visible, typological manifestation of God’s kingdom (God’s covenant nation Israel as ruled by the house of David, with Jerusalem as its capital and worship taking place in the temple which held the ark of the covenant) in favor of apostasy. Make no mistake: in rejecting the kingdom of David, these tribes chose apostasy. Jeroboam, the leader of the breakaway group, set up a rival religious system in Bethel. (Consider that as the Jerusalem temple and its religion pointed to Jesus Christ, Jeroboam’s system – which involved an altar with two golden calves similar to the calves of Baal made by Aaron at the demand of the rebellious children of Israel at Sinai! – was similarly anti-Christ.) The northern kingdom continued in this false worship – as well as with a line of evil, pagan kings – up until their destruction and scattering by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Yes, the southern kingdom, Judah, was taken by Babylon, but God suffered a remnant to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. No such provision for restoration was made concerning the northern 10 tribes, who remained estranged from the true religion until the gospel of Jesus Christ came to the Samaritans from the Messianic Jewish evangelists as recorded in Acts 8 (a missionary enterprise prefigured by Jesus Christ Himself in His dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4:4-42).
Evidence that the northern kingdom committed apostasy came from their own lips. 2 Chronicles 10:16 reads “And when all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and now, David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents.” Now who does the Bible reveal as the Son of David (and David is the son of Jesse)? Jesus Christ. The people who took part in the Jeroboam rebellion removed themselves from the Davidic inheritance – from the blessings of Jesus Christ of whom David was a prefigure and a type – with their own words. How similar was this act to that of the Jews, who embraced the destruction of Jerusalem, temple, and nation and end of the Jewish age in 70 A.D. when they cried “His Blood be upon us and our children!” in Matthew 27:25 concerning Jesus Christ when Pontius Pilate attempted to release Christ? And note when the rebels stated: we will return to our tends, so David see to your own house. In essence, these were backsliders proclaiming that they were returning to the world and its ways – spiritually returning to Sodom and Egypt – and telling the believers to get on with their on church business of worshiping and serving God.
Now, it might have seemed that the Jews of the time of Jesus Christ made a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ Himself stated that their rejection of Him had to be done in order so that the scriptures could be fulfilled, and God’s decree as represented by the scriptures would come to pass. Well, the same is true of the forerunners of the Samaritans in the time of Rehoboam. It appeared that they made a free will decision to reject the Davidic monarchy – and again the Davidic monarchy was the earthly typological prefiguring of the rule of Jesus Christ – to instead follow the anti-Christological figure of Jeroboam. But the Bible itself tells us: things were not as they appear. When Rehoboam decided to go to war against the rebellious tribes to bring them back under the rule of the house of David, God spoke these words through Shemaiah the prophet in 2 Chronicles 11:2-4, which reads “But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of Me. And they obeyed the words of the LORD, and returned from going against Jeroboam.”
So make no mistake: the tribes that became the northern kingdom did not make a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ (through the proxy of rejecting the Davidic monarchy which in that time represented Christ … please make note that in our time there is no earthly institution that represents Jesus Christ, but rather the church is IN CHRIST and is the Body of Christ). Why? Because they had no power, no prerogative, no ability to make such a decision. In other words, they could not make a free will decision because their wills were not free. Instead, their apostasy only happened because God decreed it. This is what the Bible explicitly, specifically said. It was not a case – as the Arminians and similar claim – of predestined foreknowledge through which an omniscient omnipotent God “learns” of future events and reacts to them (the heresy of open theism embraced by the likes of Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock as the result of taking Wesleyan free will soteriology to its logical conclusion). God did not “see” the rebellion of the northern tribes and adjust His salvation-historical plan accordingly. Instead, God DECREED the rebellion of the northern tribes because it was part of His salvation-historical plan that was set in place before the foundation of the world (Jhn 17:24, 1Cr 2:7, Eph 1:4, 2Ti 1:9, 1Pe 1:20).
Regarding this incident, the marginal notes for 2 Chronicles 10:5 the Geneva Bible state “God’s will imposeth such a necessity to the second causes, that nothing can be done but according to the same, and yet man’s will worketh as of itself, so that it cannot be excused in doing that it is God’s ordinance.” Now that marginal note refers to how the rash actions of King Rehoboam that provoked the northern tribes to rebel was caused by God (KJV translates nĕcibbah ‘elohiym more literally as “for the cause was of God” where the Geneva Bible makes the more interpretative “it was the ordinance of God”). Still: the action and the reaction were the result of God’s provident operation behind the scenes. It is impossible for the will of man to resist the will of God! Yet, as the Geneva Bible study notes tell us, as man’s will follows its own sinful nature unless God acts to withhold man from behaving according to his totally depraved original sin condition, God’s decree is no excuse for evil acts done by man. As Paul tells us in Romans 1:20, concerning our evil deeds, we are without excuse.
A natural impulse is to charge God with unfairness for decreeing such things, and then punishing man for his actions that are associated with the decree. But as God reminded Isaiah in verse 55:9, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. In other words, God cannot be tried, judged and convicted as evil according to man’s limited – and fallen – notions of right and wrong. For example, God is not obligated to save all mankind, or even to try. (Though the “or even to try” is misleading: for as God is omnipotent, were He to attempt to save all mankind, He would most certainly to succeed. Otherwise, He would not be omnipotent, and therefore by definition He would not be God in accordance with how God is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.) Instead, it is only by God’s grace that ANY are saved. And it is God’s prerogative to grant grace to whomever He chooses, and to withhold that same grace from whoever He chooses. Romans 9:13-23 reads “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
Yes, this most certainly applies to salvation. Man certainly has his responsibility, to make an affirmative choice using his will to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus Christ upon being confronted with the fact of the gospel. But make no mistake: a man only fulfills this responsibility concerning his personal salvation through the exercise of his will in this fashion if it concurs with God’s eternal decree to save him! God only frees the will of those that He plans to save, and the sole purpose of this liberty is to choose Jesus Christ and thereby become born again and in Jesus Christ. Hence, the liberation of the will as provided by God to the elect is not to do whatever one pleases, but instead it is liberation from original sin, the grips of Satan that has deceived the whole world, and the spiritual deadness that results. Evidence of this: not everyone gets to make a choice. The vast majority of people to walk the face of this earth have never heard of God or His gospel, let alone had a chance to make a free will choice to accept or reject God. Instead, many – but not everyone – are called through the hearing of the gospel, but only the few that are chosen by God become saved from their sins and born again as a result.
Hence in truth there is no free will but only God’s decree except inasmuch as God uses man’s will to accomplish His decree. So then, is there any way to tell to whom the mystery of salvation has been divinely granted? The answer: we only know as a result of who truly responds to the gospel by faith. Faith is not an emotional reaction or an intellectual response, but instead is gift given by God the Holy Spirit to those that God intends to save. Though we are not saved by works, evidence of God-given faith is obedience to the commandments of God as recorded in the Holy Scriptures (John 14:15). This is what is meant by the text “make your calling and election sure) of 2 Peter 1:10. If you have not already, make your calling and election sure by: